Andrea Dovizioso was surprised by the speed at which the improvements of Ducati's 2016 Desmosedici machine became apparent on the first day of testing at Sepang, claiming “it looks like everything is better.”
A scorer of five podium finishes in 2015, Dovizioso spent two short stints in the afternoon adjusting to the new machine, while on his way to posting the 13th fastest time of the day.
Just under two seconds slower than pace-setter Jorge Lorenzo's best lap, the Italian was particularly impressed with the precise feeling of the throttle on corner entry.
Excessive rear movement on corner exit, a point that Ducati engineers attempted to rectify over the winter months according to team boss Davide Tardozzi, also seems to have improved.
“I'm happy with the feeling I had immediately on the 'Desmo 16'," said Dovizioso. “Immediately I have a good feeling on the front in entry. Also the entry with the throttle is more precise. I was surprised with that feeling from the first lap. We have also less movement in the rear in the traction area, where with the Michelin we had a lot of movement, also because we have less electronics than the past.
“So the feeling was good and it looks like everything is better. We just did two exits. I couldn't [test] the [new] tyre, I just had the used tyre, because it started raining at that time. We have to do a good lap time to understand everything. The feeling was really good immediately. That is always important when you change something. We will see how much margin we have in the electronics.”
The 2004 125cc world champion had spoken of the inconsistent nature of Michelin's front tyre before the winter testing ban kicked in, and although still some way off finding the limit of the new 17-inch model, Dovizioso felt definite improvements had been made.
The front, he said, was “a little bit better.” “Still it is too early to speak about that,” he continued. “We have to ride them more to understand how to manage and really where is the limit. With Michelin it is difficult to understand where is the limit. When you go over the limit it is difficult to save the crash. Everybody approach the risk in a different way.
“But it looks like they change a little bit the level of the tyres. The characteristics is the same. It looks like how it works is the same. But they are a little bit better, especially the front. I think it's one of the main reasons why today there was just one crash.
“I think they did a good job. Still I think we are quite far from using the potential of the tyre. I don't feel that I'm on the limit in a lot of corners in one lap. But it's not easy to understand. Still there is a lot of work to do and I believe there is a margin about my style to adapt to the tyre and the bike to the tyre. How much I hope it will be [big]. The first race will show more the reality.”
Dovizioso was only the fifth fastest Ducati of the day as Danilo Petrucci, Andrea Iannone, Hector Barbera and Scott Redding all featured inside the top ten.
While this clearly underlines a strong base set-up, the Italian, entering his fourth year with the factory, feels it is much too early to draw any meaningful conclusions from the times at the close of day one.
“When more than one rider is in front it means the base of the bike is good. This is the reality. If we look at the lap times today I don't think it will be the reality of the race. There is a lot of days to do and a lot of margin to improve.
“It depends who will have the bigger margin. It's too early to speak about that apart from Lorenzo because he did a really good lap time. It means he is in a better situation.”
Once the first man he wanted to beat, Dovizioso now has ex-Repsol Honda team-mate Casey Stoner working to aid Ducati's quest for those illusive grand prix wins.
With the Australian scheduled to take part in an official MotoGP test for the first time since 2012 on Tuesday, his early speed on the Ducati at a private test came as little surprise to Dovizioso.
“I'm happy this year because I know, I was his team-mate, how big a talent he has. He won the title when I was at Honda. I know how fast he can be. We have to understand how much he can help us. Two days ago when he tested he was already very fast. But this isn't news. I think he's the only one that can be fast with, I think, eight months off the MotoGP bike.
“The feedback he gave us two days ago, some things were the same as me, and others were different. But it is normal because he can't compare a lot the bike and the tyres because he didn't race in the last few years. I think he will ride tomorrow, the feedback of tomorrow will be much more important. We'll see if he can help us.”
Both he and team-mate Iannone are aiming to focus more exclusively on the new machine on Tuesday.